Online training programs

After years of thinking about it, I have finally gotten around to moving my training programs to an online format.

My first program, Employee Obligations for Safety & Health is now available and you can have a look at the introduction to the program below.


You can access the program for $22.50 (plus GST) per person and bulk discounts are available.

If you are interested in reviewing the program to see if it would work in your organisation, or would like to organise access for your employees, get in touch by email –

I can also modify the program for your organisation.  If you have an introduction by the CEO you would like to add for your workers, or build an induction as part of the obligations program, or even change the program so that it deals specifically with legislation that applies to your business, just drop me a line and we can start a discussion.

Over the next few weeks I will be adding more programs. The programs include:

  • Supervisor obligations for safety and health in the Western Australian Mining Industry
  • Supervisor obligations for safety and health
  • Developing a safety and health assurance framework
  • Contractor safety management
  • Disciplinary action for health and safety breaches
  • How to build a “Reasonably Practicable” argument
  • Due Dilligence

If you have any other programs that you would like to see added, please let me know.



Much ado about nothing? Section 44 of the WA Mines Safety & Inspection Act

For a long time now I have been concerned about how section 44 of the Mines Safety & Inspection Act is marketed to the WA mining industry as an important part of supervisors’ obligations.

Section 44 is, for the most part, an administrative provision that does not create any additional legal liability for people who are “appointed” under the section.

Text of section 44

A significant amount of supervisor training is done in the name of section 44, much of which is misleading about both the nature of the section, and supervisor obligations.

Set out below is a short, 6 minute video that explains my concerns and the operation of section 44. if you prefer, you can access a short article HERE.


Safety Differently and Assurance

This is a quick shout out to my LinkedIn connections, especially those who are involved in “safety differently“.

I am doing research on health and safety assurance with a view to putting out a new book on the topic. My basic premise is that current health and safety reporting processes and metrics, including lead indicators, give us very little if any insight into whether health and safety risks in a business are being managed. To this end, I am interested to understand how organisations achieve health and safety assurance under the safety differently model.

 If anyone out there who is implementing the safety differently principles would be willing to share information about, or examples of their health and safety reports/reporting, it would be greatly appreciated.




HSE Assurance program in Sydney – 26 June 2017

This is a shout out to my contacts in NSW to let you know that I will be running a HSE Assurance program in Sydney on Monday, 26 June 2017.

This program follows a successful pilot program that I ran in Perth last month.

The program will teach participants how to develop an assurance program for workplace hazards and a framework to demonstrate if the organisation is managing the hazard to a “reasonably practicable” level.

You can access information about the program at the link below.

HSE Assurance program – Sydney 26 June 2017



Health and safety assurance

In June 2017 I will be speaking at the AUSA  Conference in Hobart, Tasmania on the topic of health and safety reporting:  Health and safety performance indicators: Measuring activity, providing assurance or undermining safety.  This is a topic that I have been focused on over the last 12 months (Measuring and Reporting on Work Health & Safety, WHS Reporting and Due Diligence: Some practical thoughts, Health & Safety Assurance Workshop)

You can find out more about the conference from their website.

I have been doing a number of recent training programs looking at HSE assurance, and I have put together a short presentation that looks at some elements of a broader assurance picture.

You can view the presentation HERE.

Best regards

Greg Smith

What we say matters: Zero and other Aspirations

It seems hardly a day goes by without social media raising a new discussion about the merits or otherwise of “Zero Harm”.

As I understand the various arguments “for” and “against”, there seemed to be three broad categories of argument (although I do not discount further or additional arguments).

One argument says that Zero Harm is not a target, or a goal, rather it is an aspiration – something to pursue.  If I may be so bold as to paraphrase Prof Andrew Hopkins, it is like a state of grace – something to be striven for, but never truly achieved.

Another argument, more of a middle ground, articulates that Zero Harm is “okay”, but may have an unintended consequence of driving adverse behaviour.  In particular, it is argued that Zero Harm causes individuals and organisations to hide incidents or manipulate injury data in support of an organisation’s “zero” targets.

Yet another argument says that the language of zero is totally corrosive and destructive.  It argues  the language of zero  – amongst other things – primes a discourse that is anti-learning and anti-community (See, For the Love of Zero by Dr Robert Long).

I would like to use this article to discuss two matters.  First, the Safety Paradox in the context of aspirational statements, only using “zero” as a starting example.  Second, to demonstrate how aspirational statements can be used against organisations.  Both these points are closely related but ultimately, I want to argue whatever your “aspirations” you need to have “assurance” about the effect they have on your business.

The Safety Paradox is a concept I have been exploring for some time now.  The Safety Paradox supposes that our safety initiatives have within them the potential to improve safety and cause harm.

In my view, the single biggest weakness in modern safety management is the assumption that safety management initiatives are “good“.  I have no doubt that the proponents of Zero Harm suffer from this assumption.

The question of whether Zero Harm is good or bad is, on one view, totally irrelevant.  If you are a Zero Harm organisation the only thing that really matters is the impact Zero Harm has in your workplace.

  • What is the purpose of Zero Harm in your organisation?
  • How do you demonstrate that Zero Harm achieves this purpose?
  • How do you evidence that Zero Harm does not undermine safety in the way that many commentators suggest?

My personal experience with Zero Harm means that I remain unconvinced of its benefits, but I do not feel I am closed to being persuaded otherwise, it is just that I have never worked with an organisation that has been able to address the three questions proposed above.  Moreover, in my experience, there is usually a significant disconnect between corporate intentions and operational reality: What management think is going on is often very different from what the workforce believes.

Considering all the published criticism of Zero Harm as a concept, I do not think it is unfair that the onus should be on Zero Harm organisations – including government regulators – to demonstrate that Zero Harm achieves its intended purpose and does not have a negative impact on safety.

Now, this is more than a matter of semantics.  Aspirational statements can, and are used against individuals and organisations.

On 21 August 2009 and uncontrolled release of hydrocarbons occurred on the West Atlas drilling rig operating off the North-West coast of Australia.  The incident reawakened the Australian Public to the dangers of offshore oil and gas production, leading to a Commission of Inquiry into the event.

During the Commission the aspirational statements of one organisation was used against an individual.  The criticism was that a contractor had removed a piece of safety critical hardware, but not replaced it, and had not been directed by the relevant individual to replace it.

There was some discussion about a presentation provided by the organisation, and that resulted in the following exchange.

Montara slide

Q: All right. If the operator could go to page 0004 of this document, that overhead, which is part of the induction training of drilling supervisors, is entitled “Standards”. Do you see that?

A: Yes.

Q: If you could read what is said there, you would agree it captures, if you like, a profound truth?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you agree that that is a truth not simply applicable to drilling supervisors but also applicable to PTT management onshore?

A: Yes.

Q: I want to suggest to you, sir, that your decision not to instruct Mr O’Shea or Mr Wishart to reinstall the 9-5/8″ PCC represents a very significant departure from what is described on that screen.

A: Yes, I can concede that.

Q: Without wishing to labour the point, your decision not to insist upon the reinstallation of the 9-5/8″ PCC was a failure in both leadership and management on your part?

A: Yes, that’s what it seems now.

Q: With respect, sir, I’m suggesting to you that, faced with the circumstances you were, your deference, as it were, to not treading on the toes of the rig personnel and insisting on the reinstallation was, at that point in time, a failure in leadership and management on your part.

A: I will accept that.

How many of these untested platitudes infect organisations, waiting for the opportunity to expose the business to ridicule and criticism?

Or consider if you will, the following scenario. An employee is dismissed for breaching mobile phone requirements when his mobile phone was found in the cabin of the truck he had been operating.

The employee bought an unfair dismissal claim and the presiding tribunal found that there was a valid reason to terminate his employment.  However, the tribunal also found that the termination was unfair for several procedural reasons. In part, the tribunal relied on the level of training and information that the employee had been provided about the relevant procedure.

The training documentation provided did not clearly demonstrate that employees were trained in this new procedure and signed accordingly, or that it was given a significant roll-out to employees commensurate with their ‘zero tolerance’ attitude to incidents of breaches, given how this case has been pursued (my emphasis added).

If you are going to have a “Zero” aspiration, that has to be reflected in your business practices. It seldom is.

What I think these examples illustrate is an inherent weakness in the way health and safety is managed.  We, as an industry, are overwhelmingly concerned with “how” we manage health and safety risks without paying anything like enough attention to whether the “how” works.

Do all of our aspirations and activities actually manage health and safety risks, or are we just keep keeping people busy or worse, wasting their time?  As importantly, how do we know our initiatives are not part of the problem?

BP’s corporate management mandated numerous initiatives that applied to the U.S. refineries and that, while well-intentioned, have Baker panel reviewoverloaded personnel at BP’s U.S. refineries. This “initiative overload” may have undermined process safety performance at the U.S. refineries (The Report of the BP US Refineries Independent Safety Review Panel (Baker Panel Review), page xii).

There is no doubt that safety is not the only management discipline that suffers from these deficiencies: “style over substance” and “window dressing”.  But if we claim the high moral ground of protecting human health and life, then perhaps the onus on us to show what we do works, is also higher.